Diagnostics in a digital age: an opportunity to strengthen health systems and improve health outcomes

Int Health. 2015 Nov;7(6):384-9. doi: 10.1093/inthealth/ihv062.


Diagnostics play a critical role in clinical decision making, and in disease control and prevention. Rapid point-of-care (POC) tests for infectious diseases can improve access to diagnosis and patient management, but the quality of these tests vary, quality of testing is often not assured and there are few mechanisms to capture test results for surveillance when the testing is so decentralised. A new generation of POC molecular tests that are highly sensitive and specific, robust and easy to use are now available for deployment in low resource settings. Decentralisation of testing outside of the laboratory can put tremendous stress on the healthcare system and presents challenges for training and quality assurance. A feature of many of these POC molecular devices is that they are equipped with data transmission capacities. In a digital age, it is possible to link data from diagnostic laboratories and POC test readers and devices to provide data on testing coverage, disease trends and timely information for early warning of infectious disease outbreaks to inform design or optimisation of disease control and elimination programmes. Data connectivity also allows control programmes to monitor the quality of tests and testing, and optimise supply chain management; thus, increasing the efficiency of healthcare systems and improving patient outcomes.

Keywords: Connectivity; Diagnostics; Digital age; Point-of-care; Surveillance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Computers*
  • Humans
  • Microbiological Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Quality of Health Care